Great Scott and I want our girls to grow up thinking critically, not just accepting whatever fluff drifts over them. Because of this, we very deliberately point out not just literary techniques, but logical fallacies and loaded arguments when we watch movies or read books with them. In other words, we talk back to the television a lot (especially to Katie and Matt, but don't get me started). Teaching the girls to recognize rhetorical strategy is not the same as teaching them to use it, however, and when an opportunity to begin training them in the fine art of argumentation presented itself in the grocery store this weekend, I thought it good to take advantage.
We were walking down the cereal aisle, besieged by rows of sugar cereal, a purposefully non-existant foodstuff in the Lawson pantry. The fault was mine, I admit; I slowed, seduced by a bag of generic Fruit Loops--Nuke Loops or some such thing. Anything that brightly colored has got to contain nuclear waste. The eleven year-old looked at them longingly. "They look good," she said sadly.
I nodded, "Yes, they do, don't they? They're probably sheer poison."
"It's ok Mama. I know we can't have them."
I paused. The radiation must have been affecting my brain. "Talk me into it," I said suddenly. She stopped in her tracks, wide-eyed. Her jaw dropped. "Talk me into it," I repeated. "C'mon. Give me some reasons I should buy Nuke Loops."
"They taste reeeally, reeeally good..." she began slowly.
I cut her off. "No. Not good enough. That's a good reason for a kid, but you need to think like the person you're trying to convince. In this case, me: a grown-up, a mother. What would convince a mother to buy her children Nuke Loops?"
"They're good for you?" she offered, her brow creasing in thought.
"That's better, but you'll need to be specific," I told her. "Here. Look." I picked up the bag and showed her the nutrition facts box on the back. "Say, 'Look Mommy! Vitamin A! Vitamin C! Riboflavin! And one whole gram of fiber!'"
A grin of comprehension creeping onto her face, she repeated each phrase carefully after me with increasing enthusiasm. I turned to the eight year-old. "What reason can you give me to buy Nuke Loops that would appeal to an adult?" I asked her. Her reply was prompt.
"They'll give us energy!!!!!" (This spoken by a child who could power the eastern seaboard if we could just find a way to hook her up and get a meter on her.)
I gasped in horror and shuddered. "No! That is exactly what grown-ups don't want! Hmmm... Let's see..."
Thus it was that upon our return home, when questioned by an incredulous Great Scott about our purchase, he was answered by a cheerful chorus of, "But Daddy! When we come down off the sugar high, we'll sleep for hours!"
He didn't mind too much. After all, it's educational! (Not to mention we brought him chocolate.)